FIRE AND WATER CONDITIONS AT DUBUQUE

FIRE AND WATER CONDITIONS AT DUBUQUE

Report and Recommendations of the National Fire Protection Committee.

A city of 45,000 estimated population, Dubuque, Iowa, covers an area of about 9 ½ square miles, lying on a ledge, extending along the Mississippi river, with no long or steep grades in the highvalue districts. In the downtown districts the streets are mainly 64 feet wide, some 86 feet; the alleys intersecting the blocks are laid out 30 feet wide. Of 100.34 miles of paved thoroughfares, 93.33 miles are macadamized and 6.93 miles have brick pavement. Paved streets are mainly in good condition; unimproved ones, poor. East of the mercantile district grade railroad crossings sometimes delay fire apparatus, and in the mercantile sections overhead wires would seriously interfere with ladder work. A recent report of the Committee on Fire Prevention of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, speaking of the city’s conflagration hazard, characterized it as, on the whole, small in the principal mercantile district, owing to its long and narrow character with a prevalence of blank party walls, making it difficult for a fire to sweep its length. Severe local group fires, however, are possible, owing to the presence of some large buildings lacking in fireresistive features, a poor water supply, a fire department too small to cope successfully with the fire conditions that can easily develop, a poorly cared for fire alarm system and long uphill runs to some of the residential sections. There are also some serious exposures to the main district, particularly from a lumber section to the east. Except for the large amount of lumber the general conflagration hazard of the manufacturing districts would also be small, and although some heavy group fires could easily occur no general fire should result. The residential districts involve only a small hazard; the exposure of the low mercantile and manufacturing districts to the high residential districts is considerable. Dealing with the city’s firefighting facilities, the report describes the waterworks, started in 1870 by private interests, sold to the Dubuque Water Company in 1898 and purchased for $545,000 by the city in 1900, as under control of a board of waterworks trustees, consisting of three members, one appointed each year by the mayor for a threeyear term. A force of twenty-two men is employed in the clerical, operating and maintenance departments. The supply is obtained from driven wells and from an underground stream flowing in abandoned mine workings, and is distributed in two services. Low service, supplied by direct pumpage with an equalizing reservoir, which also acts as an impounding reservoir for the underground stream. High service supplied from standpipe filled by pumpage from reservoir. There are two pumping stations, the Eagle Point station supplying the low service and the Level station supplying the high, the latter operated electrically on power supplied by the former. In the Eagle Point station are 2 Smedley, 1 Holly and 1 Buffalo pumping engines, with an aggregate daily capacity of 14,000,000 gallons, all reported in fair or good condition; the Level station houses 1 Dean and 1 Buffalo engine, of a total daily capacity of 1.944,000 gallons, in fair to good condition. The report describes the yield of wells from which the Eagle Point station obtains its supply as sufficient for little more than present domestic consumption; storage small; ample emergency supply available from Mississippi river, in which a filter-well intake has been constructed; reserve pumping capacity lacking in both stations; much combustible material in buildings; fire hazards poorly guarded and inadequate fire protection provided. The Level pumping station, which supplies the high pressure, obtains water from old mine workings through covered conduit and pumps direct from reservoir into the mains, the pumps being operated by belt from motor. The Eagle Point collecting reservoir, built in 1899, was intended for a clear water basin, but filters have never been installed: supplied from low lift pumps; it adjoins the station on the southeast, is part in excavation, with masonry walls backed with embankment; 13 feet deep, net capacity 650,000 gallons; elevation of flow line 22; condition good : covered with wooden peaked roof in bad condition, but soon to be repaired. The Level reservoir serves as an equalizer on the low service and impounds the flow of the Level: built in 1870, in excavation and embankment. Masonry lined, depth 14 feet, capacity 1,000,000 gallons, elevation of flow line 136; condition good. The standpipe, built in 1889, is used in connection with high-service system; located in western part of city; of riveted steel construction, 30 feet in diameter and 75 feet high, on substantial masonry spread foundation resting on earth; capacity 440,000 gallons. The inspectors criticize the supply system as practically dependent on a single main from the pumping station and complain of the wide spacing of the gate-valves, making it necessary to shut off large sections of mains in the event of repairs being needed or an accident occurring to any section. The hydrants are also complained of as too widely spaced, poorly distributed, badly maintained and in many cases too small. The average pressure found at 70 hydrants tested in various parts of the city was for the entire city 51 pounds; for the high service, 67 pounds; for the low service, 41 pounds, and for the principal mercantile district, 41 pounds. The lack of secondary feeders throughout is also commented on, as well as the lack of inspection of hydrants and gate-valves, many of which were found to be in defective condition. Except the few directly connected to the main feeders, the hydrants would be of little value for engine supply, owing to the poor gridironing of the system. The consumption is relatively small, owing to the reduction of wastage by metering, 2,701 of the 3,034 services being meter. Of the meters in use, 55 per cent, have been installed in the last eight months, and all services from which revenue is derived are ultimately to be metered. Regarding protection for the high value districts, the report states that reasonable protection for these important districts requires a fire flow in excess of domestic consumption of 4,000 to 6,000 gallons per minute, with a distribution system capable of delivering this amount about any block, and hydrants so located as to deliver two-thirds the quantity upon any large fire through hose lines, none exceeding 600 feet in length. The total quantity includes an allowance for loss from broken services, elevator and sprinkler connections, incidental to a large fire. Hydrant tests showed that these amounts are available in very few districts, due mainly to serious defects of the distribution system. Discussing the changes in the system demanded, in order to bring it up to the needs of the situation, the report declares that the citv has so far outgrown its waterworks that immediate improvements are necessary to provide a supply adequate for emergency requirements, either by increased pumping equipment or by providing storage at sufficient elevation, with extensive changes in almost all parts of the distribution system. The present works are the outcome of successive additions to an inferior system without regard for the future. Definite plans should be prepared so that all new work may be incorporated in the ultimate design of a satisfactory system. The method adopted for meeting existing and future needs will determine the design of the distribution system. While it is declared beyond the scope of the report to make specific recommendations for its improvements, ft is intimated that if the requirements given, relating to available quantities for fire protection, size and arrangement of mains, hydrants, etc., are met. a satisfactory system should result. The distributing reservoir mentioned should be of at least 4.000.000 gallons capacity, in order to supply the maximum fire draft for a period of ten hours; such a reservoir, properly connected to the present main feeder and with the distribution svstem properly reinforced, would furnish the desired fire protection in the least expensive and most effective wav, and would provide for economies in the ordinary operation of the plant; without it, it will be necessary to install pumping machinery of capacity sufficient to maintain the maximum fire draft, in addition to the maximum domestic consumption, with reserve equal to the largest unit, and to lay large mains of ample carrying capacity to deliver this amount of water at points as required. The rearrangement and improvement of the system is of such magnitude and importance as to require the services of an experienced consulting engineer, and his employment at an early date is urged. The fire department, which has been since 1883 on a full paid basis, is under the control of a board of three police and fire commissioners, appointed by the mayor, with the approval of council, one every two vears. for six-year terms. The finances of the department are controlled by the fire committee of the city council. The executive head of the department is Chief. Joseph R. Reinfried, a capable and progressive officer, who, except for a short interval, has occupied his present position since 1884. Assistant Chief D. Ahearn, who acts as captain of the ladder company, has been a member of the department since 1890. The fire force consists of 45 men, organized into one ladder, one chemical, two engine and three hose companies, stationed at six houses. There is a captain and lieutenant to each company, and each engine company has its engineer and stoker. The engines in service are a second-size Ahrens and a first-size Metropolitan, with second-size Amoskeag and Silsby steamers in reserve. The ladder company is equipped with a Babcock aerial, manually raised 65-foot truck, and there is a 34foot city service truck at headquarters that is used to answer alarms on the bluff. The chemical company has a Babcock two 50-gallon tank combination wagon, carrying 200 feet of 1-inch hose and a 24-foot extension ladder. The fire houses are described as twoto three-story brick buildings, generally well arranged and in good condition. The horses are of good stock and the harness of modern swinging type. The department is under civil service rules, with good methods of appointment, but the report considers the requirements too low, the financial support inadequate and the department undermanned; the lack of regular drills is also commented on, and while response to alarms is well arranged for the force available and methods of handling ordinary fires good, not enough men and apparatus for controlling serious fires are available. Depart ment officers make inspections to familiarize themselves with building conditions. The fire alarm system, as part of the fire department, is under the immediate supervision of the chief, the city electrician being practically responsible for its maintenance. The inspectors report the apparatus, circuits and boxes in generally poor condition. Headquarters in building of ordinary construction, containing numerous hazards. Apparatus and wiring not well installed or sufficiently protected. No separate alarm circuits. Recently installed boxes satisfactory, but all others have unreliable break and actuating mechanism, and most have unreliable cutouts. Keys are detached, and few key signs provided. Boxes recently painted, but some are inconspicuously located. Distribution good in the mercantile district, fair to poor elsewhere. All circuits are over head, although underground duct is available throughout the mercantile section. Circuits on poles with high tension lines or through trees at many points; wires bare or with ragged insulation. Grounds, crosses and burn-outs frequent. Tests irregular and no records kept. Nearly all alarms transmitted by telephone, causing consider able confusion and delay. Many of the duties of the fire marshal arc performed by officers of the fire department, but records arc incomplete, and there have been apparently no recent incendiary fires. The recommendations embodied in the re port, especially as regards the water supply system, are many and far-reaching. They call for systematic records of construction and operation, arrangements for furnishing alarms at the pumping stations, an additional distributing reservoir of at least 4,000,000 gallons capacity, additional pumping engines in both stations and their equipment with sprinkler systems, hose houses, hydrants and hose, the enlargement of the water main system so as to materially increase the volume of water available for fire extinguishing purposes, extra hydrants and measures for their systematic inspection and for confining their use strictly to the fire department. As affecting the fire department, the report recommends the in crease of its manual strength, the addition of various new companies, new apparatus, including a quick-raising aerial truck, a modern first-size engine, an automobile chemical engine, etc.; increase in the quantity of hose carried, the addition of 3-inch size and additional minor equipment. The removal of the headquarters of the fire alarm system to a fireproof building, free from explosions and internal hazards, where apparatus shall be placed on incombustible mountings and circuits shall enter underground and be carried in fireproof duct to the terminal board and distributed in pipe or duct, and pending this sand pails and extinguishers in the present fire alarm rooms, additional apparatus at headquarters, additional circuits and more and better distributed alarm boxes; that the telephone company make provision at its exchange for catling all companies simultaneously; that the speed of the boxes be increased and that they be subjected to regular inspection, are the principal recommendations made with regard to the fire alarm service.

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